These pages are on the website of our family business - "Roots Kitchens and Bedrooms". (Lots of useful information if you are planning to improve your kitchen or bedroom.)


Introduction - The early years - Meeting Lil and going to war - After the War

Servicemen on release were entitled to reinstatement. Our problem, where to settle with our home in Gravesend and our jobs at Edgware.

It was confirmed at my interview with London Coop. I could return on condition I gave them a fortnights notice of my intention, after being offered the job as manager of the Edgware green-grocery department, wage 3.15s. Mrs Towler had also been in touch with the proposition we live in with her, on condition, Lil carried on as before being responsible for the children and housekeeping. Lil wasn't keen on the idea, I'd had second thoughts about shop work so we finally agreed to stay put.

The only driving jobs on offer at the Gravesend labour exchange were with London Transport, on being told they were desperate and would want me to start as soon as possible, off I went with the blue card full of confidence, to be told at the bus garage, I was too tall to be a conductor which prevented me being employed as a driver. They were sorry but had to abide to the union rules that stated, all bus crews must serve at least six months on the back before being allowed up front driving.

The following morning I had trouble at the labour exchange trying to convince the clerk concerning the union rules, in the end, at my request, he phoned the transport office for confirmation, satisfied, the clerk apologized and thereafter I was treated with respect. While I sat in the office he phoned round the factories and came up with a dumper driving job at the cement works. Is/9d(8.75p) an hour. If you were unskilled and refused any labouring job on the labour exchange books at that time, you automatically disqualified yourself from unemployment benefit, unless you could produce a medical certificate.

Like most service personnel I found it hard to settle, as the weeks turned into months I was feeling as though I was in a trap, thoroughly browned off with the boring shift work, without any kind of job satisfaction. Now it would seem my luck was about to change. Hope was raised when I saw the police advertisement for fit ex-servicemen to join them. Confident my credentials would see me on the highway patrol, everything was in my favour, in fact the ideal recruit, with a good army record, 6' 3", physically fit, unarmed combat specialist, proven driver in any conditions, all to no avail.

At the time I sat the entry examination my thoughts wandered back to inkwells, cricket bats, footballs, had I paid more attention when I had the opportunity, I probably would have known the answers to the history and geography questions. Perhaps the date of the Battle of Hastings or knowledge that Glasgow is in Scotland, has something to do with over-powering and arresting desperate characters who have run amuck on the street or chasing gangsters in a patrol car. Personally I could not then or now see the connection. Anyway, somewhere along the line failed and on being notified I had been rejected, I enquired if there was any chance of being taken on as a driver. Driving a black maria around full of prisoners, a job my army training could have been to some use and at the same time would have released a constable driver for alternative duties, and given me a chance to study police over a couple of years then apply to sit the entry examination again. If what was told the force was desperate for experienced drivers, to me it would have make sense to have let me drive the patrol car, the constable with the brains in the passenger seat make out the charge sheet and together if need be make an arrest. I was advised to send in a written application with my suggestion, or try City of London Police, where the saying goes, if you are over six foot, can read and write you are in.

At the time my police career came to an abrupt end. Ford's advertisement in the press for assembly line workers, paying sixpence an hour above the going rate for the area, gave me an alternative opportunity to get away from cement dust, which clogged up the nose and found it's way through to the underclothes, no matter what type of overall was worn.

1947 9th June Lil had her wish Graham was born.

October I made a start at Ford's on the Prefect assembly line Dagenham. My first operation entailed walking in reverse dragging the front fender (front section Two mudguards side panels end grill assembled) then manhandle, by lifting it over the engine onto the moving line for final assembly. To me it was sheer torture my legs and back muscles had never ached so much before or since, the mile walk to the station at the end of the shift made up my mind, no way could I see myself finishing the week out on that particular job. At lunch time the following day, I called in the personnel office for my cards, the line foreman was sent for and after a friendly discussion, it was then I learned he had been trying it on. It should have been a split shift job, it was agreed, I would go back and finish the week out on the line for a trial period and do a split shift mornings on fenders, afternoon fitting wheels. I certainly wasn't reckoning on the trial period lasting 35 years.

All my life I have taken an interest in football and cricket. At school with brother Arch we played for Hendon boys with the Compton brothers Les and Denis, and like them would have preferred a professional status. In the army I played for the battalion and can recall the incident when I had a spot of bother with a Captain. I was bowling at the time, he was at the non striking end and would persist in cheating, backing up leaving his crease before the ball had left my hand. It was a distraction which affected my concentration. So as a private to a Captain and according to the laws of the game, I warned him if he persisted I was at liberty to run him out, and did so during the over. Immediately I had the feeling it was not a popular move with the officers on the field and was told in no uncertain terms it was not a gentlemanly or sporting thing to do.

Had our first holiday away, a caravan for two at Dymchurch. There were not enough hours in the day for Lil. Housework and out with Graham in the pram either shopping or collecting food for the rabbits from the fields then feeding them and the chickens before dinner. Five afternoons a week she would clean the bakehouse and grease the bread baking tins at the back of the bakers opposite. Evenings she would sit for hours recycling old dresses into new for Pauline, herself, neighbours children, and suits for Graham. For my fellow work mates, making and fitting new collars at a shilling a time from the shirt tails. Also hairdressing, neighbours would buy the home perms, bring them in and Lil would do the necessary, cut, wash, perm and set.

I am now a playing member of Bartons the local timber merchant's cricket team. Saturday afternoons the team, families and prams included, would pile onto the back of the firms delivery lorry, and during the season we would play most of the village teams within a ten mile radius of Gravesend. While the match was in progress, the women would either help prepare tea or just sit and talk about what ladies talk about, the children would amuse themselves. On return journey a jolly old sing song and an enjoyable and cheap days outing for mums as well as dads.

All the year round weather favourable, a gang would meet on Sundays by the river at Shornmeade Fort. An open fire would be built with the ample supply of timber lying around. In the Summer months numbers would average around thirty, twenty during Winter when, like the Gipsy, all would contribute to the hot pot, with tea and baked potatoes on the go all day long. All kinds of games would be played, hide and seek among the ruins, rounders, cricket, football. When wet, plenty of cover for indoor card and board games. The bicycle being the only means of transport, Graham on the back of Lil's. I would have a box on back and front with rations, Pauline would ride her own. All would arrive loaded and some without the price of an inner tube would have the tyre's packed with straw. Great memories but time moves on and many of them are no longer with us.

1948 July Ford's annual shutdown. We are told to take a fortnight off without pay, for a holiday we did not want and could not afford. I spent the 14 days at Higham cherry pick- ing for 10s (50p) a day.

1951 I was told to report to the personnel office and informed my name was next on the list for a driving job, then the medical, the difference this time it wasn't a question of the M.O. saying bend over Al next please, it was a thorough insurance medical for a company permit to drive any vehicle.

I am now on road test, taking the vehicles as they come off the assembly lines for a drive along the Southend Road, checking steering, brakes, gears, etc. My first run out brought back memories of days gone by, return turning point was on the same stretch of road where we waterproofed our trucks in 1944. Our quota for ten hour shift, 30 cars or 20 lorries, any faults were marked upon the inspection card attached to each vehicle, a routine job with the odd incident. On one occasion I well remember, a van had passed three inspection points on the assembly line, less nuts on the bolts on the steering column, which came adrift in my hand and went it's own way up on the grass verge. From Ford's point of view that's the objective of the test run, if it's going to happen then better to have an employee rather than a customer involved, it being the only way of covering themselves against faulty workmanship.

1953 For our holiday I bought a tent from the army surplus stores, covered with thick black camouflage paint. Tied on top of the Morris eight hired for the occasion, we were ready to move off at 0700hrs Monday with half the neighbours in the street, who had made a special effort to be up standing at the gates to cheer us on our way.

On arrival at Porlock, Somerset putting the tent up in the rain to say the least, was a bit of a problem and no easy task. When up Lil could not see to make the beds or cook the meal, by this time it had stopped raining and we sat in a circle outside the tent with tongues hanging out, watching Lil cook the mutton stew on her sixpenny methylated spirit stove from Woolworth, it was delicious. After dinner we went for a walk to try the cider with the Welsh couple who had previously given a hand to sort out the tent. Graham had more than was good for him and on the way back to camp was quite tipsy, and had everyone laughing at his antics. We had not been in bed long before the rain proved the tent was not a good investment, it leaked like a sieve.

1955 Bought Sobell our first television.

1957 Bought Austin seven my first car for 15. Graham embarrassed and ashamed to go out in it, and when he did he would lay down across the back seat in case any of his school friends were about.

Driving test on the roads now obsolete, test driving performance executed on rollers at end of assembly lines and now twenty drivers surplus to requirements. Fords are about to open new plant on Woolwich industrial Estate. I have volunteered for fork lift and tractor driver vacancy to work with the millwrights, moving machinery from Dagenham lines and into position on the lines at Woolwich.

Woolwich now in production and am working a twelve hour day with fork lift, feeding rough stock , connecting rods, camshafts, oil and water pumps, gears, front and rear axle housings into the lines, when machine operations complete, loading finished parts for shipping. Management were at panic stations desperately trying to prevent the lines at Dagenham coming to a halt through a shortage of material from Woolwich. All line at Woolwich were flat out doing twelve hour days, those on shift would finish at 1630 Saturday and start the night shift Sunday at 2000 hrs. When possible breakdowns and machine moves would be left until the weekends, when I would be working with Millwrights twelve plus until the job was finished.

1958 Sold Austin for 10 bought Hillman Minx 100. Now working week about ten hour days and night. Saturdays 0730 - 1600 Sunday night 2200 - 0630 hrs.

Lil still keeping herself fully occupied, apart from hairdressing, needle work, bake-house, chickens and rabbits, she has now taken on the house work, painting and decorating for Miss Stone, who owns and lives above the general store opposite.

1959

Mother must have been among the luckiest of mums during the war to have had five sons and one daughter away on active service; Bill, Arch, Les and Stan Army, Vic Air Force, Eileen Navy (Wrens). All too return as they left, fit and healthy.

We moved into a three bedroomed semi-detached at; 22 Teesdale Road Fleet Estate Dartford Kent on October 9th 1959. Pauline at the time was working at Burroughs Welcome in Dartford so the move was to her advantage. For Graham, a problem, no way was he going to change schools and it was solved by him agreeing to get a paper round and paying his own bus fare, he was as good as his word, and kept the paper round on until he left school.

Lil now working full time in the Launderette on East Hill Dartford. Twelve automatic washing machines to look after and when not in use by a do it yourself customer, staff would wash and iron what had been left for collection. She kept the job for two years until the working conditions and heat in the summer months made the atmosphere in the Launderette unbearable. Then worked at the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel Dartford as a chambermaid. 0700 - 1530 daily.

1962 Working in receiving off loading and check weighing all goods in.

1963 Graham left school and with Trevor Nibblet, son of our camping friends, started plumbing apprenticeship with Hobbs and King Gravesend.

1965 Transferred to shipping checking finished parts with plant security before dispatch.

1969 25th 'D' day anniversary. Fords supplied transport to convey. A B C News reporters and American Generals for Normandy tour of battle area. For the occasion it was a condition chauffeurs of the twenty cars should be veterans of that day, and that each plant should be represented. I being one of three from Woolwich. All in all an interesting experience with its very sad moments. The memorial service at the cenotaph in the war cemetery just off Omaha beach, where thousands of soldiers average age twenty lay in row after row as far as the eye could see, was a vivid reminder to all present how fortunate we were to have survived. Cornelius Ryan author of the Longest Day was reporting for ABC news and gave each driver a signed copy of the book.

1971 Returned to work after ten weeks off with a slipped disc. Now shipping clerk in transport office typing advice notes and logging goods in and out.

1973 I volunteered to work over the holiday shutdown, which turned out to be very much to my own advantage. Main advantage it put me in the position of being able to pick and choose and spread my own holiday throughout the year, a week in May, June and September. Pay was at time and third for normal hours and increased overtime rates plus extra days off with pay. Being the only one working and responsible for covering all jobs in both shipping and receiving departments, plus feeding and clearing the lines, typing advice notes after loading the lorries, meant working anything up to fifteen hours a day, Sundays I would work twelve hours in the office sorting parcel mail and catch up with logging advice notes of material that had been received during the week.

Lil was still working full time in the hotel, and between us we earned enough during the three week period to buy a touring caravan cash down, which became our holiday home for years, only when the man handling as the years crept up on us, became too much of a hard task, did we sell it for a few pounds less than we paid for it. Most weekends when free, which wasn't often, were spent with our life long friends the Nibletts, on our free camping site on the Isle of Grain. Thereafter I volunteered to work the shutdown every year until I retired.

1974 Internal post truck driver retired, the job went up on the notice board and from the rush of applications it came to me on seniority. It was a pleasant job without the hustle, collecting and delivering around the plants daily. First stop Dagenham, Greys, Dunton, Basildon, Warley, Brentwood and Enfield, then on to the main line stations; Euston, Kings Cross, St Pancras, Paddington collecting red star parcels, panic parts mainly for urgent machine repair and machine tools.

From then on until I took early retirement in November 1981, I had at long last become a contented Ford worker.

EPILOGUE

Our marriage must have been similar to that of the majority of couples who married in haste during the war, with advice coming from all quarters, and like the rest we carried on regardless. Today and for a very long time, I have known it was the most important and sensible decision I ever made.


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